We in technology love the concept, the idealized form of a database. A romantic notion, if you will, where there is one “base” of data with a formal and highly efficient way (like SQL) of pulling out data instantaneously. And sure, if someone were to create a highly structured, highly coherent, from the ground up application where everyone is on the same page – a database is a great idea. But the organization you work in is not a monolithic application, it’s a dynamic collection of people, ideas and information connected through shared goals.
The Uniqueness of Individuals – A Blessing and a Curse
Uniqueness causes ideas to flow and gives you a competitive edge, but uniqueness is the reason it is practically impossible to build and maintain a golden repository of information. Individuals and groups make their own choices based on their function and needs and enterprises are increasingly allowing these loosely-controlled but responsive environments to foster.
This is not to say that there is never a need for a structured repository of information. There is indeed a multi-billion dollar market of content management addressing various segments and use-cases including customer support portal, document management, e-discovery and others. However, attempts to manage and disseminate internal information, be it through documents, wikis, or social tools, even with the best intentions, have failed to address some of the fundamental needs for various reasons including:
- Burden to systematically organize and manage content,
- Poor findability of information,
- Inability to personalize the information to suit individual role and needs, and
- Disruptiveness in existing workflows and behaviors
As a result, although myriad of newer cloud services, each solving a narrow problem really well through superior usability, have gained significant traction and user base, information retrieval problem has continued to plague organizations.
IT versus the Worker
Companies more often than not play the symphony of implementing a new knowledge management structure followed by employees finding ways around it. Let’s face it, when individuals or small teams have found out their own solution that works best for them, and a centralized authority claiming they are “wrong” or “inefficient” offers another solution, an inevitable backlash ensues. One such consequence is Shadow IT, team specific systems without IT’s approval.
What happens when employees are told to move to a new system to store their information? Take for example wiki pages. Wikis, while important, were the hottest rage in 2012.
But unfortunately, it is plagued with inconsistent expectations and usage:
- Many dutifully convert their knowledge into wiki pages.
- Others view it as a burden and begrudgingly accept it, but put in little effort.
- Some sparsely populate those pages
- Some view them as brain dumps and treated it accordingly
- Some resist and keep their information hidden within e-mail threads or other places within their own personal workflow.
All in all, motivation to centralize all knowledge does the opposite – it spreads it out even further.
And when users have to alter their workflow to modify information, information does not get modified. Plain and simple. Wiki pages are often old and outdated. Corrections are placed in e-mails, Slack messages, release notes – you name it, there’s information stuck in there. Soon, getting the answer to a question becomes an exercise of informational connect the dots of various knowledge management solutions. A customer’s information could be in Salesforce – their product spec could be in a Box document, internal product specs could be in a Confluence page, and the workaround needed to fix the particular bug the customer is encountering could reside in an e-mail thread. No one planned it that way, but years of institutional and tribal knowledge from various individuals never ends up, figuratively and literally, on the same page
Taming the Beast
Leading experts agree:
- According to McKinsey, employees spend 20% of their time looking for information.
- IDC paints an even grimmer picture, stating that knowledge workers spend 30% of their workday searching for information.
IT organizations have struggled to find a solution to such a spaghetti network of informational resources. Any solution not only needs to deal with their own KM deployments, but integrate with Shadow IT. And these new breeds of solutions not only need to account for such fragmentation, but provide uniform and consistent results.
We at Nimeyo have personally struggled with this jigsaw approach of getting that right piece of information in a timely manner throughout our careers in companies both large and small. That’s why we created a product that is built from the perspective of Enterprise employees. We call our architecture “Pods and Bots”. Pods are the domain specific (e.g. sales or support) engines that continuously analyze information from e-mail, documents, IM channels, wikis, CRM and more, and then automatically add a layer of domain specific intelligence. And our bots then deliver this information to you, contextually and within your workflow, be it in e-mail or Salesforce; providing you the freedom to use your favorite tools without changing your behavior.